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How to answer competency based interview questions

Blog   10 05 2019

Matt Darvill Blog, Employers, Interviews...

Competency-based interviews are one of the most common that a candidate will face during the application process. Like all things, practice makes perfect, and there are plenty of things you can do to help your chances in the interview. Competency questions focus on the skills, behaviour and knowledge that you can bring to the role; so are all focussed on your previous experience in work.

The questions will be very broad and open, allowing you to develop an answer, demonstrating how you dealt with a particular situation in the past.

Examples of Competency Questions

The question will lead you to describing a project or task, so will start with wording similar to these examples

  • When was the last time…
  • Have you ever been in a situation where…
  • Can you tell me about…

This will then focus on a particular ability

  • Tell me about a time you took responsibility for a project
  • Demonstrate how you vary your communication approach according to the audience you’re addressing
  • How do you plan to ensure you complete a number of tasks effectively?

The topics will focus on skills essential for the role. So take a look at the job description and person specification to get an idea of the types of questions that will be asked.

How to answer a Competency Question

The most common advice is to use the STAR interview technique. This allows you to structure your answer, giving you the best chance of incorporating all of the necessary information. This format breaks the answer into four parts, with STAR standing for…

Situation – This is establishing who you worked for at the time, your role at the company and any other essential information. This only needs a few seconds to give your example some context.

Task – What was your responsibility or task you were asked to complete.

Action – Describe in more details the steps you took to address the task. Mention specific skills and how they could be useful to the role.

Result – How did you actions resolve the situation, and what was achieved as a result of them?

Bear in mind that when you’re reeling off a prepared answer you don’t want to sound too robotic or scripted. It’s important to get some pointers in advance of your interview, but not be too reliant on them, preventing you from speaking freely. Interviews are not a test, so bring written notes with you to help.

Final Tips

The key to effectively answering is to develop some examples that you can adapt depending on the question. Use the same example, but just change the focus. One of your prepared answers could be used to respond to a question on communication or leadership for example, as there is a lot of crossover in these areas. Try to use as many different examples as you can and try not to repeat, to help give a broad overview of your skills and experience.

If you have an interview lined up, then we wish you the best of luck. Check out some of our other blogs on interviews here